It’s no secret that college kids love to eat. We’re just passing our final pubescent stages of a vacuum like intake on food, and while this should mark an end to our nutrient absorption, many of us stand our ground and ignore any sort of metabolic anxiety. Refusing to believe our teenage free for all is ending, we furthermore disregard what is known as the dreaded “freshman fifteen”. Our most important question on any college tour is “How’s the food?”, and we can’t wait to make the all you can eat buffets, late night pizza, and hourly homework snacks a part of our diet.
Now, to all of you incoming freshmen, I guarantee that what I’ve just described is exactly what you are either going through, or beginning to go though. And, if my assumptions are correct, when you get to Tufts you’ll be searching for the best and tastiest food you can get your hands on. The biggest plates, the most Boston-like italian food, and the best late night pizza.
That’s why I’ve personally decided to do my own Tufts version of Diner’s, Drive-ins, and Dives (the greatest show ever on food network, check it out). Below you’ll find a short list of some of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area. Some of them will be the places every Tufts student knows about. Others, maybe not so much. Take a look through, let your mouth water, and seek them out as soon as you get to campus!
I’ll start off with one of the best restaurants in Davis Square, right next to Tufts. Redbones BBQ is some of the best smoked meat in Boston. When you enter the restaurant, it looks a bit like the inside of a fraternity basement. The walls are painted black, with drawings and pieces of surreal art littered everywhere. It has a very college-like aspect to all of it, and the barbeque smell wafts over everything you see.
Sitting down at a table, you’ll first look at the menu and see a multiple side conglomeration of different barbeque dishes, but then looking off to the right, the list of 20 different starters will pop out at you. Dishes range from a savory plate of buffalo chicken wings to soft and sweet hushpuppies. Last time I went to this restaurant, I distinctly recall my friends and I ordering nearly 5 different appetizers for our table. My personal favorite (which I get almost every time), is something people may find strange: deep fried pickles and jalapenos. They’re a juicy yet crunchy alternative to a normal calamari, yet you’ll find the pickles to be a fantastic complement to the spicy jalapenos. The nachos plate is also one of the biggest I’ve ever seen, and the texas chili is great for those delightfully cold nights in Somerville.
That’s not to say, however, that the entrees aren’t just as good. People tend to go right for the sandwiches, but I personally love taking a look at the ribs and meat plates they set out on the back. While some of the brisket and chicken can get a little dry, their pulled pork and ribs are definitely some of the highlights. Several different rib platters align the menu, with enormous St. Louis Style ribs and sweet baby backs marking a highlight. If you’re looking to try other meats, the combo dishes will get you where you want, offering meats like memphis ribs, jerk beef, sausage, pulled pork, babeque hash, and more.
To quickly conclude my bbq rant, if you’re any kind of meat lover at all, I highly suggest you try Redbones. However, they’re always crowded on any weeknight, so make sure to get a reservation beforehand. Cheers!
La Familia Giorgio’s
This is probably my favorite North End Restaurant. It’s your classic Italian food nestled tight in one of the most famous alleyways in Boston. It’s not quite a hotspot tourist location, though it can get crowded on a Saturday night, especially in August. The food is very good, and they also give 20% off to college students (possibly only Monday nights, but I do believe it is every day of the week), providing you with extra cash to go get a Mike’s Cannoli afterwards, just a few blocks away. The atmosphere is very golden and comfortable, and the employees are some of the nicest people. Example: I was once an hour late to a reservation on a crowded Saturday night, they let us skip the line when we got there and got us a table as fast as they could (yeah, I’m that jerk).
The portions...here...are...HUGE. I’m not kidding. They’re quite large. The first time I ever went to this restaurant was my first trip to Boston with my family. We all ordered our own dishes. The waiter warned us. We all came back with leftovers. If you have trouble finishing a normal dish by yourself, then you had better share. I’m quite a big eater, so I can tend to finish one off on my own, but I have to be pretty hungry.
As for the actual food, think of typical North End quality dishes. Everything is fantastic, no matter what you get. My personal favorite dish is the Seafood Pasta Primavera (I think they may have 7-8 different types of animals is that dish), but the Lasagna is also quite good as well. If you prefer to stick to your vegetables, their classic Italian caesar salad will knock your socks off, as will their Garden salad. Their pizzas are also delicious, and I guarantee you’ll have trouble finishing one by yourself.
Finally, you know how you go to a really good restaurant, and even though their food is good, they skimp out on the bread? It feels microwaved, it’s crusty, it’s that weird grainy stuff, whatever, it’s just not good, not matter how great the place is. Well, NOT THIS PLACE. That’s all I’ll say, enjoy!
Helens’ Roast Beef and Espresso Pizza
Now, some of you current Tufts students may see this and think, WHAT? How are Helens and Espresso on this list? And yes, while these two joints are nowhere near the best pizza place in Boston, they is, by almost all means, the best late night pizza places at Tufts. For the upperclassmen at Tufts, these two places are the obvious go to locations for their 2 AM Saturday pizza orders. However, I would like to stop the freshmen making a mistake that all freshmen, including myself, have made. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, go to Pizza Days (the other pizza place located right across from Tufts). Helens and Espresso pizza are by far better choices, and will satisfy your late night desires plenty well.
And while they aren’t by any means the cream of the crop in the Boston area, they are decent, good pizza places, and here’s a quick synopsis of each:
Helen’s: This is a great place to order your calzones. They’re absolutely enormous, perfect to share with friends, and will satisfy all of your stressful finals needs come the end of the semester. Living in my Wren suite last year with 10 of my friends, at least 1 of us would order a pizza every night. Needless to say, however, our common room floor began to sag a bit at the end of the year when we all stood on it at once.
The mozzerella sticks are also very good as well. Delivery is OK, though the drivers have been dealing with rowdy college students all night, so when you call them at 2:30 AM demanding a pizza, don’t expect them to be a sunny bowl full of cheerios.
Espresso: Espresso pizza actually just reopened a couple of months into last semester, in my opinion it’s your go-to place for “New York” style pizza. While some (ok, all), of you New Yorkers will strongly protest to this, let me defend myself by saying that I HAVE lived in Connecticut for five years. Yes I know thats not New York, but it’s good enough! Try Espresso to get your thin crust, you won’t regret it.
Mr. Bartley’s Burgers
If you ask people for the best burger place around Tufts, almost every student will stay to go try Boston Burger Co. If you ask for the best bar, they’ll say Joshua Tree or Five Horses. If you ask for ice cream, they’ll say J.P Licks. What do all of these places have in common? They’re all in Davis Square. And while they are quite delicious, these students have a hard time remembering (and I have to admit I have a hard time remembering as well) is that there is a whole other world of food just two stops away on the red line in Harvard Square. There you’ll find Thai, Italian, Mexican (though being from California I’m a bit of a Mexican food snob), Middle-Eastern, and good old fashion American.
That said, my personal favorite place in Harvard Square would have to be Mr. Bartley’s Burgers. They’re a typical college-type place that’s always packed to the brim, but always ready to dish out a burger. And boy, what burgers they have. Just take a look at a few that I pulled off the menu below:
(rise to the occasion!) with blue cheese dressing, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and french fries
THE MARK ZUCKERBERG
(Richest geek in America) with boursin cheese, bacon, and sweet potato fries
THE (SEXY) REXY RYAN
a chicken burger w/ blue cheese, hot sauce and french fries
THE ELIZABETH WARREN "liberaly anointed"
(owes unions big time) with swiss cheese & grilled peppers w/potato salad
THE SCOTT BROWN
(unemployed!!!) with bacon, american cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos, & french fries
Who wouldn’t want to have a “Viagra”? And while these burgers may have very strange, creative names, they have anything but a strange taste. Each burger is filling, delicious, and cooked to perfection on a toasted bun.
In addition to the burgers, the sides are just as crazy and varied. Cajun French Fries, Chili Cheese Fries, and Nacho Fries will take down a Five Guys side any day (but maybe not an In N’ Out). The onion rings are also some of my favorite: thing and crispy. With huge portions, you’ll have trouble finishing them just without the burger, and you’re sure to leave happy and full.
So, next time you’re craving a burger and have a little bit of extra time to make those 2 T stops (~8 minutes). I highly suggest you go on an adventure, travel off campus, and hit up Harvard Square for dinner.